HDMI 2.1 is here, and it’s faster and bolder than all previous versions, including HDMI 2.0. Does that mean you need to upgrade all your HDMI cables and equipment? Not necessarily. Read on to find out why upgrading to HDMI 2.1 cables may or may not be a smart choice for your home theater, business or digital signage application.
HDMI 2.1 Bandwidth Is Almost 3 Times That of v2.0
First off, the new version of HDMI provides bandwidth up to 48 Gbps, a vast improvement over HDMI 2.0’s 18 Gbps bandwidth. This allows you to transmit 5K, 8K, even 10K video resolutions with frame rates up to 120 fps (frames per second) with Dynamic HDR (High Dynamic Range). Although no current television broadcasts, streaming sites or home video formats support 10K, some high-end video gaming applications do. Testing or playing graphics-heavy games at 10K may be an irresistible urge only HDMI 2.1 cables can let you scratch.
HDMI 2.1 Backward Compatibility with Earlier HDMI Versions
Switching to HDMI 2.1 is easy enough. Just switch out your old HDMI cables for new HDMI 2.1 cables. The connectors are the same size and shape, and HDMI 2.1 is backward compatible with your current 2.0 or earlier equipment. Even if you haven’t upgraded your audio/video equipment or computers to HDMI 2.1, your cables will work with your existing devices, though without most of HDMI 2.1’s advanced features.
Not Just Video, But Also Audio Receives a Boost Under HDMI 2.1
Your audio receiver, amplifier and soundbar will also see a vast enhancement with HDMI 2.1’s eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel) feature. It’s basically HDMI’s Audio Return Channel (ARC) feature on steroids, allowing the installation of advanced audio codecs (including DTS:X and Dolby Atmos) and using the increased bandwidth to carry louder, sharper audio signals.
So, Should I Upgrade Now to HDMI 2.1 Cables?
While the enhanced 48 Gbps bandwidth and 120 fps refresh rate are exciting to think about, the fact remains that, as of today, few source or display devices support HDMI 2.1 technology. Certainly, they don’t come cheap. However, staying ahead of the curve is rarely a bad thing. The first 8K televisions with HDMI 2.1 support are already on the market, delivering resolutions up to 7680 x 4320 at 60 Hz. When HDMI 2.1-compatible equipment becomes more available and affordable, having HDMI 2.1 cabling already in place will put you ahead in the game. And remember: HDMI 2.1 cables work with your current HDMI devices.